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Movie Reviews

DVD Review: “Payback (Straight Up: Director’s Cut)”

(Paramount Home Entertainment. 1999/2007. Color. 1 Disc. 90 minutes. Rated R. Widescreen. Written and directed by Brian Helgeland.) Mel Gibson, Gregg Henry, Maria Bello, David Paymer, Deborah Kara Unger. Music by Scott Stambler.


This movie rocks. It’s one of the few instances I’ve found where the director’s cut is superior to the original theatrical version. If you saw it in ’99, you remember that the screenplay is based on the same novel that inspired 1967’s Point Blank with Lee Marvin (also good). A small-time crook (Gibson), double-crossed after a robbery and left for dead, goes on a single-minded mission to get his money…and the former partner who wronged him. First-time director Helgeland was fired in post-production so that Gibson and the studio could give the movie a more upbeat ending. To Gibson’s credit, he gave Helgeland a chance to restore the movie to his original vision for this DVD, and the differences between the two are fairly astounding: the new version eliminates (among many other things) Gibson’s narration, the bleach-blue look, Kris Kristofferson, and the clunky score. New (and better) music (by first-time composer Stambler) and a new third act results in a leaner, meaner, noir-ish gangland fable. Extras include commentary by Helgeland, on-set featurettes, and a documentary, Same Story, Different Movie which gives more details on the changes. Available singly, or as a set titled Mel Gibson: Ultimate Collection (bundled with Braveheart and We Were Soldiers). Hard-hitting and great.